Soft skills are some of the most difficult competencies for people to understand. Job seekers and hiring managers alike can struggle with the challenge of defining, demonstrating, and recognizing soft skills. Though they're extremely fluid and highly personalized to each individual, soft skills are a critical component for professional success — and are often the most distinguishing factor between applicants, so make sure you show off your soft skills right.
Understanding soft skills
The term "soft skills" is often difficult to understand. As the name suggests, these skills aren't as solid and clear-cut as others. Soft skills are also referred to as transferable skills, interpersonal skills, or social skills. Soft skills may include nearly any ability that pertains to the way you approach others or handle your professional life. Soft skills are difficult to measure. There aren't many tests or professional certifications that will demonstrate your proficiencies in these areas.
Hard skills, in contrast, are those skills that are very easily measured and defined. This includes things like accounting, computer programming, plumbing, or dentistry. You can easily obtain a degree or professional certification in these areas. They're very teachable, and almost always attainable if you have the means to pursue a formal education in that area.
Hard skills apply to very specific professions. Web design skills aren't applicable to a career as a surgeon. A nursing education is irrelevant if you're looking for a job as an electrician. Hard skills lock you into a particular occupation.
On the other hand, soft skills are more flexible and can serve you well in numerous occupations. Though it takes more effort and creativity to properly demonstrate these abilities, they're valuable to almost any job that you might pursue.
Professionalism is a soft skill that will set you up for success in any field. It acts as the driving force that pushes you to advance in your career. Some key skills that demonstrate your professionalism are self-motivation, work ethic, and resilience. Employees who are very professional are continuously working to improve themselves and their job performance. They're skilled in time management and organization. They also possess the skills needed to overcome common challenges, such as patience and stress management.
Some accomplishments that demonstrate your professionalism include:
- Consistently finishing projects ahead of schedule
- Exceeding the projections for a campaign
- Demonstrating attention to detail and catching minute errors early in the production process
- Taking the initiative to go above and beyond what was assigned
Interpersonal skills are another important subset of your soft skills. These skills pertain to how you relate to others, both inside and outside the company. With your co-workers, teamwork and mentoring skills are valuable. When you're interacting with customers, it's important to demonstrate perceptiveness and empathy, which will help you understand and resolve their issues.
Demonstrating strong listening skills, emotional intelligence, and communication skills will serve you well no matter who you're working with. Those who are good at networking are a valuable asset to the company as well.
You can demonstrate your interpersonal skills by:
- Building strong, ongoing relationships with customers
- Working collaboratively with your co-workers
- Leading seminars or providing effective training
- Maintaining an extensive network of important contacts including vendors, clients, and partners
Leadership and Management Skills
While leadership skills are most relevant to those in a business management job, don't think that you have to be at the top of the pack to showcase these soft skills. Demonstrating that you're an effective leader will serve you well in any industry or position. If a hiring manager spots leadership potential, they may keep you at the top of the file for future promotions.
Management competencies are typically considered soft skills because they're so difficult to measure. Good managers are skilled with problem solving and project management. They're usually good at performing essential research and analytics. Strong leaders also know how to handle interpersonal issues that arise with those around them. They have critical observation skills that help them identify problems as well as conflict resolution skills to help them skillfully mediate disagreements.
Some accomplishments that will showcase your leadership and management skills include:
- Successfully heading a major project with several others on your team
- Skillfully delegating responsibilities to others
- Identifying difficult problems and implementing innovative solutions with measurable results
- Overseeing sales and marketing campaigns
Soft skills examples
It's more difficult to feature soft skills on a resume than it is to highlight your hard skills. However, soft skills are just as important to potential employers. While all the applicants for a marketing manager job are likely to have college degrees in marketing, not all of them will have the same set of soft skills to bring to the job. This is truly where you can distinguish yourself from the competition.
Don't simply list off your soft skills without providing some measure of proof to back up your statements. Anyone can say that they have strong communication skills. Demonstrate yours by highlighting projects that required you communicate effectively with a diverse group of people. With soft skills, it's more important to show than it is to tell. Include measurable details wherever possible.
- How many new clients did you land with your networking skills?
- How much did you improve productivity with your problem-solving talents?
While training for soft skills is more difficult to come by, it does exist in some cases. If you've attended a workshop or seminar to help you develop a soft skill, don't hesitate to feature these 4 items on your resume. Not only will it demonstrate your expertise in that area, it will show that you recognize the importance of oft-overlooked skill sets and have dedicated yourself to making improvements in these areas.
Your soft skills can make the difference between a lackluster interview and one that lands you the job. Make sure you take the time to identify your strengths in these areas so you can shine a bright spotlight on the soft skills that make you stand out the most.
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